Prem Nath Bali v. Registrar High Court of Delhi

Prem Nath Bali v. Registrar High Court of Delhi

COURT: Supreme Court of India

JURISDICTION: Civil Appellate Jurisdiction

CASE NO.: Civil Appeal No. 958 of 2010

BENCH: Hon’ble Mr. Justice Chelameswar and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre

APPELLANT: Prem Nath Bali

RESPONDENT: Registrar High Court of Delhi and Another

DECIDED ON: 16 December 2015

INTRODUCTION

In the case of Prem Nath Bali v. Registrar High Court of Delhi, the court dealt with the disciplinary proceedings, which commenced in the year 1990 and continued for more than nine years. Due to the pending disciplinary proceedings, the appellant sought revocation of suspension order but it was not considered. The Supreme Court looked into the undue delay of the matter caused in the disciplinary proceedings.

The present appeal was filed in the Supreme Court after the appeal was rejected in the Delhi High Court.

BACKGROUND

The case Prem Nath Bali v. Registrar High Court of Delhi deals with the Service Law in India. It revolves around the fact that the departmental inquiry against the delinquent employee should be completed with a period of six months. In cases where the delinquent is placed under suspension during the pendency of such inquiry then it becomes all the more imperative for the employer to ensure that the inquiry is concluded in the shortest possible time to avoid any prejudice to the rights of the delinquent employee.

FACTS OF THE CASE

On 01.10.1965, the appellant joined the office of District & Sessions Court, Delhi as Lower Division Clerk. He was confirmed w.e.f. 06.07.1976. Thereafter on 26.07.1986, he was promoted as Upper Division Clerk (U.D.C.). In May 1989, he was posted as U.D.C. as in-charge of copying agency criminal side at Patiala House Court, New Delhi.

The appellant submitted a written complaint against the window clerk while he was working as U.D.C. and in-charge of the Copying Agency (Criminal) at Patiala House Court, on 23.01.1990, Complaint was filed against the window clerk, namely, Smt. Brij Bala to the officer-in-charge of the Copying Agency, Patiala House Courts. It was stated that she was not discharging her duty properly and she often closed the counter of the Copying Agency before the prescribed time. After lunch also she used to resume her work after a prescribed time. The appellant has to depute other officials to attend the work. The appellant requested her transfer. 

Smt. Brij Bala also made a statement on the same day to the superior officer that on 22.01.1990 after closing the application register at 1.00 p.m., she came to know that some applications, which were not even entered in the register on that day, were entered in CD2/Dak register subsequently and the certified copies were got prepared of those applications on the same date. The appellant pressurized her to deliver the copies on the same date at 2.30 p.m. When she refused to do so, the appellant fought with her and used unwanted words in the office, which were unjustified. The aforesaid statement of Smt. Brij Bala was forwarded by the office-in-charge to the District Judge. A preliminary inquiry based on the said complaint was made. After that, a departmental inquiry was also held against the appellant. On 06.02.1990, the appellant was suspended.

A memorandum dated 18.07.1990 was served on the appellant by the office of the District & Sessions Judge, Delhi that the authority proposes to hold an inquiry against him under Rule 14 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control, and Appeal) Rules, 1965 (in short “the CCS Rules”) which included the statement of articles of charges and other relevant documents.

The disciplinary proceedings, which commenced on 18.07.1990, continued for more than nine years. Pending disciplinary proceedings, the appellant sought revocation of suspension order but such representation made by the appellant was not considered. Subsequently, vide order dated 01.03.1999, the then-District & Sessions Judge, exercising the powers conferred under Clause C of 4 sub-rule 5 of Rule 10 of CCS Rules revoked the order of suspension with immediate effect. 

The issue, whether the period of suspension is to be reckoned as period on duty, was not decided and directed to be taken up after the conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings. 

The District & Sessions Judge, Delhi passed two orders dated 27.10.1999 and 28.10.1999 imposing a major penalty of compulsory retirement on the appellant. It was also ordered that the appellant will not be entitled to any amount more than the allowances already paid during the period of suspension. 

Challenging the said order, the appellant filed an appeal before the Administrative Judge of the High Court of Delhi. Vide order dated 21.08.2000, the Administrative Judge dismissed the appeal. 

Against the said order, the appellant filed W.P.No. 2046 of 2001 before the High Court. The High Court, by impugned judgment dated 21.08.2008, dismissed the petition. Aggrieved by the said order, the appellant filed this appeal by way of special leave before this Court.

Mr. Wasim Qadari learned counsel appeared for respondents. Mr. Sreegesh learned counsel appeared on behalf of the appellant.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT

The appellant contended that no case is made for imposing the punishment of compulsory retirement. He also contended that he did not get fair opportunity to meet the charges and, therefore, the departmental proceedings are rendered bad in law having been conducted in violation of the principle of natural justice. The punishment of compulsory retirement imposed was not in proportion with the gravity of charges.

The appellant was kept under suspension for a long period of 9 years and 26 days (06.02.1990 to 01.03.1999) without any justifiable cause. The respondents excluded this period while calculating the appellant’s pension, which according to him was not justified.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT

The respondents argued that departmental proceedings were delayed due to the appellant’s seeking frequent adjournments from time to time and hence he is not entitled to claim the benefit of a period of suspension for fixing his pension which, according to him, was rightly fixed after excluding the suspension period.

ISSUES RAISED

  • Whether the inquiry officer fully observed the principle of natural justice while conducting the departmental proceedings? 

QUESTION BEFORE THE COURT

  • Whether the punishment of compulsory retirement inflicted on the appellant was justified or not?

JUDGMENT

The court held that the departmental inquiry should be concluded within six months against the delinquent employee. The court also directed the respondents to pay the amount for the period of suspension to the appellant as he had to survive only on suspension allowance for a long period of nine years.

ANALYSIS

The period of suspension should have been taken into account by the respondents for determining the appellant’s pension. The court directed respondents to re-determine the appellant’s pension by taking into account the period of suspension (06.02.1990 to 01.03.1999) and then pay to the appellant arrears of the difference amount from the date he became eligible to claim pension and then to continue to pay the appellant re-determined pension regularly in future. Where the employer can’t conclude due to certain unavoidable causes arising in the proceedings within the time frame then efforts should be made to conclude within reasonably extended periods depending upon the cause and the nature of inquiry but not more than a year. The delay of the completion of the departmental proceedings was not wholly attributable to the appellant but was equally attributable to the respondents as well.

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